Sunday, April 15, 2012

The list is long

The list is long... and detailed. But before we got down to all work, we started our day with a little play.
We visited the site just south of Gothenburg where a tree-lined berm that was the original 1913 route of the Lincoln Highway still exists in picturesque glory.
We heard from our Bobby Koepplin, the chairman of the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway and Peer Adviser to our Byway about how to interpret the site, improvements that could be made, how signage should be handled.

Won't it be great some day in the near future (our goal is 2013!) to have visitors from coast-to-coast know they're traveling the Lincoln Highway Byway (or be able to get off I-80 and enjoy the route at least for a portion of their trip) and have signage letting them know where they can see sites like this as well as other historical sites, attractions, great places to eat or enjoy Nebraska microbrews and wines, unique shops...

With the slower pace of the Byway plus everything there is to see and do... how many back roads will they have to travel and how many sites will they have to visit before they spend an additional night in one of our small towns, or at least enjoy a meal?

From there, we detoured along the "stair step" portion of the original route to Brady. In 1913 America's first transcontinental highway was simply a series of dirt and gravel roads interconnected to get travelers from one coast to another. It was only after the designation was made that the efforts to make it hard-surface from coast-to-coast would be begun. Locally the north side of the Platte River Valley was too sandy to make firm roads, while on the south, the existing farm-to-market roads were in good shape, so the Highway followed these roads - hence the "stair step."
From historic churches and frontier cemeteries, sites that can be recognized from diary descriptions of early Highway travelers, Oregon Trail monuments and Pony Express stations to
sites that are important to Nebraska's Public Power heritage, this portion of the original route is filled with "points of interest" that will be showcased to travelers.

Then it was back to Gothenburg and a stop at their wonderful Pony Express Station (they are the Pony Express Capital of Nebraska, you know) that attracts more than 30,000 visitors to Gothenburg each year!
Again, the visit was a learning opportunity, where our adviser Bobby Koepplin discussed interpretive signage with us.
Our meeting room for the day is in the wonderful Nebraska Salt and Grain corporate offices in Gothenburg. Not only do they have beautiful offices, they have developed an inviting meeting space that is used by the entire community.
Now it is time to go to work and make THE LIST.
The Lincoln Highway Nebraska Scenic and Historic Byway has A LOT to accomplish:
  • Update Bylaws
  • Create Articles of incorporation
  • Become a corporation under the laws of the state of Nebraska
  • Develop 501 C3 application and become a 501 C3
  • Create a Corridor Management Plan
  • Start with a Sign plan and have it implemented by 2013
  • Develop a presentation and "take the show on the road" in counties and communities across the 400 (or 450 or 500 or whatever) miles and 14 counties encompassed by the byway
  • Inventory attractions, amenities and points of interest that fit into Byway intrinsic qualities in each county along the Byway - Archaeological, Cultural, Historic, Natural, Recreational and Scenic.
  • Generate new members with the goal of a member a mile within five years.
There are a lot more tasks, assignments and objectives under the major goals in that list, but I won't bore you with the details. HOWEVER, if you would like to become a MEMBER and help with any one of them, you are more than welcome to contact one of the Executive Board members!!

Before long it was time to break for lunch at Gothenburg's very unique Pizza Hut restaurant.
Bobby went above and beyond the call of duty when he agreed to continue on to North Platte on the stair step AFTER the formal meeting had adjourned. We traveled Highway 30 to Brady, then south - backtracking our trip of the morning.

The first site we reached was Conroy's grave - an unfortunate soldier from Fort McPherson who was killed by natives while cutting grass a little too far from the Fort.
Bobby explained how a point of interest or an interpretive site could be handled in the area. Further on is the statue of a soldier commemorating the flag staff on the parade grounds at Fort McPherson.
The Byway can be such a force for good for historical sites such as these, bringing like-minded people together to ensure that preservation and proper interpretation is done for future generations.
One of the major take-aways for me from this meeting is the power of one. As a member of the Byway, when I see sites that need improvement - mowing, spraying, painting, straightening - just DO IT!

A major attraction along this historic route is Feather River Vineyards. In a very polite way, Bobby critiqued their signage efforts and suggested ways they might be improved - for their benefit as well as for the benefits of travelers along the Byway.
Then it was a whirlwind tour of North Platte's attractions and points of interest along the Highway 30 route of the Byway, then a chicken gizzard dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken and back to Gothenburg so Bobby could begin his TEN HOUR drive back to North Dakota.

Thanks for stopping by. There is going to be a lot of coffee drinking done on this project.

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